"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

April 28, 2015

Making a Conch Horn

We looked at quite a few sites on how to make a conch horn and all the basic instructions seemed to be the same, but those instructions left a few things a little unclear to the first time horn maker. I hope I can make the instructions a little clearer.
  1. Choose conch shell. One that is 7 inches or larger in length will produce the best sound quality. The larger the conch the deeper the sound, but the size of the shell has nothing to do with how loud it will play.
  2. If the shell isn’t clean wash it in warm sudsy water to remove all traces of the original inhabitant, then soak the shell in a 10 to 1 water/bleach solution overnight to sanitize the shell. This will help remove the algae and crud attached to the shell. I then used a sharp knife to scrape away the tiny white crusty stuff left behind.
  3. The first step in making your horn is to cut off enough of the tip of the shell to leave a dime size surface (Most instructions called this a hole, but it really isn’t a hole…not yet). We used a pneumatic cut off saw (because it’s what we had and it made the job easier) in this step, but you could also use a hacksaw or dremel (pic #2). We also used this saw to round off the points of the shell to make a smoother mouthpiece (pic #3).
  4. The next step is to make a hole in this surface. You must drill through the spiral structure enough to allow an air passage but not so much that you remove all air restriction. We used a sanding bit on the drill press to widen the opening. This could also be done with a large drill bit (pics #4 & #5).
  5. Use sandpaper to smooth the edges of the mouthpiece (pic #6). 
  6. If your shell was harvested for the conch meat it will have a hole that will need to be blocked. If small enough this can be done with our finger. We decided to use Goop to fill our holes, but epoxy and a bit of gauze can be used (pic #7).
  7. If you want your shell to look pretty and polished, wipe it down with a little baby oil.

The conch shells we brought home from the Abacos
Estimating where to cut. It's better to be on the small side...you can always cut off a little more. (pic #2)
Using the saw to take off the pointed edges of the shell. (pic #3)
We used a drill in the beginning to hollow out the air passage, but it seemed a little slow. (pic #4)
So we used a sanding bit on the drill press. It was just the right size and made the job much easier. (pic #5)
Sand all edges to make a smooth mouthpiece. (pic #6)
We used a bit of fiber glass material (gauze or any material would work) on this shell to fill the hole and then applied the Goop on top of that...it worked great. (pic #7)
The finished mouthpiece. This area was completely flat when we first sawed off the tip (not a hole like in some instructions). Drilling and sanding was needed to open up the air passage.
Two of our conchs are horns and two are being used as book ends on Texas Pearl.
The next blog will be about how to blow the conch horn. They say it takes practice, but Stan must have made a great horn, because I could blow it on the first try! What a good man.

April 23, 2015

Blog Changes

Google has changed the way they are running their search engine. Giving priority to sights that are mobile friendly. Meaning that blogs that open to their original web version may not be found. For this reason the look of Life in the Slow Lane will appear different if you are visiting the sight on your mobile device. Most things can be found on the menu bar that is located under the title picture. The only thing missing at the moment on the mobile version is the blog archive. I haven’t figured out how to get it to show up yet, but I’m working on it. For now to be able to use the archive you will have to click on the “View web version” at the bottom of the page. Stay turned…more changes may be on the way.

The new look if you are using a mobile device.
 Click on the down arrow to open the menu. 
Scroll to the bottom of the page to find "View web version".

April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

April 19, 2015

April 19 - Rockport, TX

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.” ―Louisa May Alcott

One baby sleeps and the other is beginning to stir...one adventure ends and another begins. It's time for us to do a little work on the Hatteras now. We're both excited to spend more time on the water in Rockport and make the Texas Pearl feel more like home.

April 17, 2015

April 17 - Good Night Baby

“Faith is knowing there is an ocean, because you have seen a brook.” —W.A. Ward

Today we had The Pearl hauled out and put on the hard. It's a bitter sweet time when we leave the boat and go home...we love the time we spend on the boat, but we also love our time with family. Indiantown Marina has a large yard for boat storage and it will be a wonderful place for her to stay while we are away, but I always feel a little sad to see a boat left unattended. I will give details on the preparations we made in a later post, but for today here are a few pictures of The Pearl in her new home.

The marina has a wonderful lounge area for boaters to enjoy...unfortunately we were too busy to use it.
Indiantown Marina
But we did make time to visit with a few old friends. We first met Peter and Cheryl in Tarpon Springs in 2011. We enjoyed that last few days getting a chance to reconnect. Hopefully we will see them in the Georgian Bay one summer soon. 
Indiantown Marina
Indiantown Marina
Indiantown Marina
Getting a bath before we put her to bed
Indiantown Marina
Indiantown Marina
Indiantown Marina

April 15, 2015

April 15 – Indiantown, FL

Indiantown Marina

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ―Douglas Adams

The Pearl has been on her last run of the season, maybe the year, these past two days. It's always a little sad to put her in storage, but this year is even harder, since it may be 8-9 months before we return. Since we are leaving her for so long and in Florida during the summer, we have decided to have her hauled and stored on the hard. We are keeping her at Indiantown Marina, which is located west of Stewart in the Okeechobee Waterway.

We spent all day Monday retrieving our car from Lamb's Marina in Jacksonville. Jacksonville is 3 1/2 hours from Ft. Piece and then left the car a little further south of Ft. Pierce in Indiantown. It was a total of 8 1/2 hours on the road by the time we made it back to the boat…a very long day for people who haven't been in a car for about 4 months.

Tuesday we cruised down to Stuart and through the St. Lucie Lock on the Okeechobee. We docked at the lock marina for the night, since we couldn’t get into Indiantown Marina until Wednesday.  We were hoping we could get in early, but no such luck. This is a busy time of year for them and they are scheduled weeks in advance.

Today we called the marina and were told our slip would be ready at 3:00. So I spent the morning getting things organized, packing and taking inventory of what we will leave on the boat and what I will need to buy when we return. Stan washed the boat, took care of getting the dinghy and the outboard ready to be stored and lubricated all the deck fittings and locks. Most of his work will begin once we get to the marina.

At 1:00 we released the line for the last time this season and slowly moved west to The Pearl's new home. We had a peaceful trip to Indiantown, but we had to wait about thirty minutes for our slip to be ready...this place is packed at the moment. Old friends greeted us when we arrived. We haven’t seen Cheryl and Peter in over four years, but we have kept in touch through the Internet. It was great to see them. They've always teased us that we were on their boat. They finally gave up on us returning it and bought their own trawler. They also own two boats...see we're not the only crazy people. After taking a break and catching up with our friends, it was back to work.

We are scheduled to be hauled out on Friday morning. They will place her in the storage yard and strap her down (hurricane protection). Once she is on the hard we will finish some last minute jobs to prepare her for her long stay and we will begin our trip back to Texas.
This was lock number 128 for us...it's all a piece of cake!
The docks were a little small but we made it work
It's nice to be able to count on a good sunset when there aren't many pictures for the day. 

April 13, 2015

April 12 - Ft. Pierce, FL

Fort Pierce City Marina

“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.” –Robin Lea Graham

Today was a catch up day...we caught up on work and sleep. After two long days on the water and five weeks in the Bahamas we needed both. Stan didn't sleep well the last few nights in the Bahamas since he had so much on his mind, so last night being tired to a dock and the air conditioner running he definitely caught up. We started our day by going out for breakfast, unfortunately our favorite place is closed on Sundays, so we made due with a dinner down the street from the marina. By 10:00 I had finished three loads of laundry and Stan had washed the boat. Both were long overdue...it feels great to be clean. We also caught up on our boat logs and the blog.
After so much work this morning we decided we deserved a trip to P.P. Cobb General Store for a cold beer and light lunch. I told you we were back in the land of excess and accessibility. It's too easy to go out...to stay in! The P.P. Cobb General Store was the first store in Fort Pierce. It traded goods between local Indian tribes, planters, and schooners that sailed out of Saint Augustine and Jacksonville. Today Cobb's is a delicatessen specializing in baked goods, homemade soup, salad & sandwiches, but the biggest draw to the store is their selection of over 500 different beers...Stan was like a child in a candy store. They also carry a large selection of sodas, nostalgic candy and souvenirs. It's a very interesting place and the owners are very friendly and very knowledgeable. It's definitely worth a stop if you're in the area. 

P.P. Cobb General Store
We had soup and a grapefruit beer...very refreshing  
Fort Pierce Marina Circle

April 12, 2015

Abaco Map

Click on here to go to our Abaco travel map. It contains mileage and info on all our Bahamian stops. Hopefully we will have more places to add to it during the 2016 cruising season.
Abaco Map

April 11 – Back in the States

Fort Pierce City Marina

“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.” ― Kate Douglas Wiggin

Good-bye Abaco, good-bye beautiful white sandy beaches and a very sad good-bye to the crystal clear turquoise water. We've had an amazing time exploring the islands of Abaco and we will definitely come back, but it's time to go home and reconnect with family.

The first port in the Bahamas isn't that far from the Florida coast, but getting to the Abacos takes a little longer. We spent three days moving from Green Turtle Cay back to Florida, about 200 miles. We had one day of playing and two long travel days to arrive in Fort Pierce. Yesterday was our longest day, the trip across the Little Bahamas Bank was rolly and very choppy, but once we were in the Atlantic things improved. Not as smooth as our trip across the Gulf Stream last month, but definitely not as bad as it could have been.

Last year we signed up for the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS), we highly recommend this process. It was well worth the time it took to go to the customs office for an interview. One phone call this morning and we were set, if you don’t have these numbers you have to clear customs at the airport in person.

You definitely have sensory overload when you return to the States from Abaco. We are docked in Ft. Pierce near the historic district and it's Saturday night. There's noise everywhere...cars, motorcycles, trains, sirens and music coming from several bars. We've seen more people this evening than we've seen in the last six weeks. We are a land of excess, so much to choose from and everything is so accessible. Being in Abaco felt like stepping back in time. Where things are more laid back, uncrowded and move at a slower pace. Doors and windows are open, people sit outside and kids play together riding bikes and running. There are only a few cars on the outer islands, most people either walk or use golf carts, the stores and restaurants are small and selections are few. All these things help you unwind and unclutter your mind...it was wonderful. But as wonderful as it was to relax and slow down, it's nice to be back in the States where things are more accessible and affordable. I guess we're a little spoiled...paradise was amazing but coming home is great. It’s time for a new adventure in a different place.

April 11, 2015

April 9 – Little Abaco Island

Angelfish Point - Anchorage

“To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor – Sail, not drift.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Today was our last play day in the Abacos and we made the most of it. By 8:30 we were on our way to Green Turtle Marina for a little fuel and water, and then we made our way to Munjack Cay. We anchored near the beach on the north end so we could swim with the sting rays. Actually we didn’t swim with them…we waded with them. The local dive operators have been feeding the rays here for years, so they are very friendly. They came right up to my legs. We also saw two small sharks and a turtle…even the sharks were looking for a hand out. We didn’t feed any of them. I did get to pet them though…it was one of the best experiences we’ve had since we’ve been here.

On our way to Powell Cay Stan caught a Spanish Mackerel, which we had for dinner…it was very good. The water around Powell Cay was beautiful, but the anchorage was full of boats, so the beaches were too. We found a trail that led across the island and wandered down the beach on the Atlantic side and only found a few sea urchins and a couple of very nice sponges. Once we were joined by a few other people we took the dinghy to the beach on the north end and found a few more things. It was our last beach combing day, we’re going to miss our walks on the beach.

Our last stop for the day was Angelfish Point on Little Abaco Island. It was one of our first stops when we arrived last month. It didn’t look as pretty this time since the tide was up. Our little beach was under water and all we found on shore was a rocky beach. We spent a little time looking around and then went back to the boat to relax…we didn’t travel too far today but we stayed very busy. We had a wonderful day and the memories of this trip will stay with us for a long time.

Our last tropical drink on the beach. Bluff House Beach
Bluff House Beach on Green Turtle Cay
The sting rays
Munjack Cay...lots of beautiful beaches

New Plymouth History

Donny’s Boat Rental & Marina

The Memorial Sculpture Garden features bronze sculptures of the town's prominent loyalist founders as well as their descendants and slaves. The centerpiece depicts the arrival of Loyalists from the United States following the Revolutionary War. Reflecting the loyalists' allegiance to the Crown, the sculptures are arranged in the pattern of the Union Jack. Plaques detail the deeds and achievements of each of those commemorated. The garden is a Bahamian national monument. 

Albert Lowe Museum was built in 1976 the first museum in the Bahamas. It is located in a restored Victorian-era family home that was originally built in 1825 and featured traditional gingerbread-trimmed porches, dormer windows and one of the only cellars on the cay. The museum was established to preserve the unique history and development of Abaco from the time of the Loyalists. Displays include model ships carved by Albert Lowe, various historical artifacts, photographs, paintings, writings and other exhibits. Highlighted are various industries and occupations that have supported Abaconians over the years.  
Ye Olde Gaol (jail), was built in the mid-19th century as the original jail in Green Turtle Cay. The seemingly random stairs to nowhere on Ye Olde Gaol once led to a second story that was destroyed in the 1932 hurricane. Following that, the jail was not rebuilt, but the Architectural Preservation Foundation of Green Turtle Cay has made the jail one of the many historical features of the community. The two-story building originally served as jail, post office and Commissioner’s Office. Making Ye Olde Gaol the seat of government for all of North Abaco.

April 10, 2015

Fresh Abaco Bread

Fresh-baked island bread goes with Abaco like seawater and sunshine. Every Abaco community has a baker or bakery. In New Plymouth you can get fresh baked goods at Mo Mo’s Sugar Shack. On Man-O-War Cay, it used to be Lola Sawyer, her fresh bread and cinnamon rolls are legendary. Although we were told she isn’t baking anymore and we didn’t get to try those amazing rolls. In Hope Town it Vernon’s Grocery. The crusty brown loaves have been a key ingredient in his business for 40 years. Today he bakes a wide variety of breads, including many specialty breads like banana, cranberry and guava. His tiny bakery, that is part of his grocery store, turns out an average of 100 loaves a day.

Before flour was available in the Abaco people made potato bread and dug up roots to make a bread called “pap.” The secret to the consistency, taste and popularity of Abaco bread now, is Canadian flour, which they claim is much better than U.S.

People in the Abacos appreciate the fact that it's one of the few places where fresh-baked bread can be found in grocery stores. It’s also one of the things that's very affordable in the islands. In Abaco, “sliced bread” isn’t considered all that great!

Mo Mo's Sugar Shack (bakery) in New Plymouth
Vernon's Grocery Store in Hope Town
Just one of the many loaves of bread we bought while we've been in the Abacos.